March 24, 2011
It’s the rare professional athlete who gets to be known by just his first name. There’s Mickey, Babe, Lebron, Kobe, Mario, Ronaldinho and a smattering of others, including Pedro, one of baseball’s greatest pitchers. Tomorrow, a painting of Pedro Martinez will be added to the collections of the National Portrait Gallery, joining portraits of other baseball greats, including fellow Dominican Juan Marichal, Nolan Ryan, Reggie Jackson, Yogi Berra and Carlton Fisk. And within a few years, pending Martinez’ official retirement from professional baseball, he will certainly join those players in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Former Boston Globe writer and ESPN commentator Peter Gammons said the portion of Martinez’ career from 1997-2003 was “the most dominant stretch of any pitcher in baseball history.” During that period, Martinez lead the American League five times in ERA, three times in strikeouts, five times in hits allowed per nine innings and won the league’s Cy Young Award three times in 1997, 1999 and 2000. And in this writer’s estimation, he was robbed of the award in 2002. He was an integral part of the 2003 2004 Red Sox team that broke the Curse of the Bambino and brought the World Series trophy back to Boston for the first time in 86 years. Martinez was also known, lovingly in Red Sox Nation—not so much elsewhere, for his antics of questionable taste. He befriended the 2-foot-4-inch tall actor Nelson de la Rosa as a “good luck charm” and famously threw down 72-year-old Yankees coach Don Zimmer during an on-field brawl in a 2003 playoff game.
Even though he is far past his prime and currently not signed with any major league team, when Martinez arrives in Washington for the donation ceremony tomorrow, he will still be the best pitcher in the nation’s capital, the Washington Nationals notwithstanding. And I say that as a loyal, but downtrodden, Nats fan.
Artist Susan Miller-Havens’ painting, donated by Peter Gammons and his wife Gloria, will hang in the “Recent Acquisitions” wing of the museum after tomorrow’s private ceremony.
UPDATE: At the ceremony, Miller-Havens revealed that she hid rose petals from the Dominican Republic beneath the pitchers’ mound in her painting as an extra gesture to Martinez. Their friendship reaches back to his joining the Red Sox in 1998. Her goal when painting this portrait was so viewers “could see a Pedro Martinez that maybe you haven’t seen before.”
In response, Martinez said, “Susan, there are not enough words to say ‘you are beautiful’ and your art is even prettier.” In front of an audience of a few hundred friends, family, press and dignitaries, including Marichal, Gammons and the Ambassador of the Dominican Republic, Martinez thanked his fans and supporters frequently. “I’m very happy to be inducted into this museum,” he said, perhaps hinting at his speech to come in a few years at the Hall of Fame.
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